Routines, Reflections, Dollars, and Desires

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This summer has been anything but routine for me.  I hurt my back in late May and I was out of commission for six weeks.  I rarely spent any time outside and didn’t travel.  I went to the park maybe three or four times in the six weeks my back was mending.  Normally I go to the park three or four times per week during the summer.  I haven’t done any traveling as I haven’t been outside my hometown since late May.  I haven’t driven much and have actually developed a slight phobia of driving.  I guess I never gained my confidence back from my accident last October.  While I got my car fixed I still haven’t heard anything back from if I can get any kind of settlement.  Progress is insanely slow in some cases.

I haven’t been outside around the complex much this summer.  It seems that most of my neighbors have been more short tempered and irritable the last several months.  I don’t know what to make of that.  I still have the one neighbor who always in a foul mood and never has anything nice to say about anyone.  Apparently he won’t be moving out any time soon.  It’s kind of tough living in here anymore.  Three of my most interesting friends in here died in 2014 and 2015.  Since I live in low income housing, who we get as neighbors is luck of the draw.  There are days when I’m depressed I would love to move out and start over.  But I don’t think any where else in my hometown would be any better.  With my mental illness and disability pension I can’t afford to move to a larger city.  I don’t want to move back in with my parents as their hometown has far less to offer than my current town.  I really don’t know if I can move to my brother’s hometown because of my disability pension and transferring to a different state.  If I were to move to another city, I’d love for it to be to a place with reasonable public transit.  I hate driving anymore.  I’d never drive again if I had the choice.

I don’t suppose schizophrenics do well in large cities.  I hear horror stories about people with mental illness ending up homeless or in jail in large cities. My schizophrenia being what it is, it’s not like I can start over with a job that pays enough to give me a decent living if I were to leave disability.  I was anxious working as retail store clerk and factory worker. I used to have panic attacks so bad I’d vomit from the anxiety before I went to work.  I fear the idea of working with the public.  I have been verbally abused enough by customers and coworkers in my previous life as a customer service worker that I never want to experience that again.  And blogging about mental illness will never pay the bills even if I am providing a good service for others.

It’s not the money I care about, it’s what the money can buy that I’m concerned about.  I don’t need the status of a high paying job to satisfy my ego.  I don’t need the large house in the suburbs or the high end penthouse in a skyscraper.  I don’t need the large pickup truck or high end foreign car.  I can get around just fine in a twelve year old four door sedan that is as good on gas mileage as anything besides the really small Japanese cars.  If I need to move something with a pickup truck, that’s why I have friends and family members with pickup trucks.  It’s amazing what one can accomplish with a phone call, a little elbow grease, and offering to buy lunch or a tank of gas.

I really have my basic material needs but I can get by with almost no splurging.  I have learned to live inexpensively on my disability pension without a job.  I am happy wearing t-shirts, sneakers, and pants from K-mart and Wal-Mart. I can get all the music I want for free via youtube or pandora radio. I don’t even have music CDs anymore.  I haven’t even downloaded music from iTunes in over a year. I would rather watch Netflix at home, sit on my own couch, and eat a delivery pizza than go to the movie theatre. I would rather go for a walk in the park or shovel snow in the winter than spend heaven knows how much on a gym membership.

Splurging for me is grilling bratwursts and spending cool and overcast autumn Saturday afternoons watching Nebraska Husker college football games on my flat screen tv.  Splurging for me is buying a bucket of KFC and a couple side dishes instead of eating off the dollar menu.  When I need new furniture I talk to friends and family who are moving or having estate sales.  I got my couch, lamps, and recliner after my grandfather died.  I got my bed and dresser after my grandmother died.  I got my house plants from helping my mother.  All I had to do was help my family clean out their places for a weekend.  The most I gave for a piece of furniture was $50 for my all purpose heavy duty table I eat from and use my computer on.  So a person can live quite inexpensively if you use your family and friends’ connections and help people out once in awhile.  The only time I go to restaurants that aren’t fast food is when I’m entertaining out of town family and friends. I have stayed out of debt for two years even without a job.  I managed to save up some emergency money that could fund my life for a couple months even without a disability pension.

So I’m not concerned about getting rich.  For the first few years I was serious about writing, I was hoping to make some money as a writer, travel on the speaking circuit, and donate a bunch of money to my college as some of my happiest memories are from my four and a half years at York College in York, Nebraska.  Now that I know how to live on less than I thought I could and I see how much stress my brother is under with his job, I know it’s not the high paying job or successful business that I need or even want.  The big thing that I want now is for my experiences and writings to make a positive difference for whomever happens to read these entires.  I have no delusions I’ll make much money writing a mental illness blog.  Schizophrenia my involve delusions but that’s not one of my delusions.  I don’t care if I make money off  my writings and blogging.  I really don’t even care if I make above poverty level wages.  I just want to make a positive difference in the lives of whomever reads my blogs, whether you be a mental health patient, support person, or just someone who cares about the problems of the mentally ill.  I don’t desire riches.  I desire to make a positive difference in at least a few lives.

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Socializing and Decreased Hallucinations

Now that I have my medication situation under control I’ve been easing back into more of a normal type of life.  At least it’s as normal as a life of mental illness is going to get.  One of the aspects of my life that is starting to resemble normal is my social life.  Just last week I spent two hours outdoors chatting with two of my neighbors. Three days ago I chatted with a third neighbor for over an hour. Today I chatted one on one with another neighbor for almost two hours.  Those are the three longest conversations I’ve had with someone who wasn’t family in months.  I still make a point of calling my parents at least twice a week.  It’s not just Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day I talk to my parents.  I still go to counseling twice a month with the same counselor I’ve had for the last year and a half.  We have a pretty good thing going.  I also have a good deal going with my psych doctor.  I do kind of worry because both of these men are getting close to retirement age.  So I’ll be in the market for new therapists and doctors within a few years.  I’m so glad the subject of DNA testing came up with my psych doctor.  The medication I changed to was one my DNA tests said would work really well for me.  So the DNA testing has already paid off.  We might make another change within a few weeks.  But things seem to be working well enough now we might not even need to make a second change.

I’m also noticing I can now go entire days without feeling irritable.  I don’t even really get irritable while driving.  Since I usually drive a little slower than speed limit, especially in town, I usually get passed and sometimes cut off.  But neither really bothers me that much anymore.  And I’m beginning to drive more again.  For several months I drove only when I had to run errands or to visit my family.  I rarely made spontaneous trips.  And being in an auto accident several months ago didn’t help any.  Even though I wasn’t at fault in that accident I lost some confidence in my driving ability.  It’s now coming back.  I haven’t set out on a long road trip yet but I probably will this summer.  I try to take at least one several hour road trip every summer.

I’m also having fewer auditory hallucinations.  For me, my hallucinations were almost always voices. Occasionally I hear foot steps and doors closing that no one else does, which can be quite creepy. Voices and foot steps are the two biggest hallucinations I have.  If one were to watch me closely when I’m alone, you could see my lips move and I would be speaking under my breath. That’s how the hallucinations make themselves manifest. It no doubt looks very odd but hopefully it’s not as painfully obvious as some schizophrenic hallucinations.  I can have entire conversations with the voices and not even speak loud enough to be heard.  But since most of the voices are quite nasty and critical it’s not like the conversations are enriching or enjoyable.  But I’m getting to where I now have much more conversation with real flesh and blood people than just isolating and arguing with my hallucinations.

No News Is Sometime Good News

It’s been rather uneventful for the last few days in my life with mental illness.  I really haven’t had any mental health issues.  Been feeling pretty quiet and content for at least a week.  After four weeks of medications changes I am now to where I can feel anger without fear of going psychotic.  Haven’t been able to exercise much because we’ve had lots of rain and chilly weather.  But in spite of not being able to exercise I have been feeling well.  I do feel a little cooped up as I haven’t been able to get out and about much, just because of the rain.  But the forecast looks hopeful.  Maybe I can get back outside exercising every day again soon.  May and June have always been my best months mentally.  April was decent considering I was undergoing a medication change.  I see my psych doctor again at the end of May to see what future medication changes are needed.  So far things are looking uneventful but hopeful.  I’ll keep you posted.

Changes

It’s been one week since I started the medications change.  I’m noticing big differences already.  For one, I make it a point to leave my apartment multiple times a day whereas I may have left only once or twice a day if at all.  Not only am I getting out more, I actually want to get out more.  Driving doesn’t cause me as much agitation now, so it’s easier to get across town.  Been to the park most days this last week.

I am more motivated and less lazy too it seems.  Finally shaved my winter beard.  I looked more like a mad prophet than a mountaineer with my growth.  I never looked good with beards.  I rearranged my apartment.  I even find myself watching baseball every night, especially since the season started a few days ago.  I used to go weeks without watching regular tv as I thought it was mind numbing and soul killing.  I still think most tv is mind numbingly stupid but I no longer swear off it entirely.

The only real negative I have seen is that I do get hungry more frequently.  Used to be I could eat a large breakfast, a small afternoon snack, and a decent dinner and that is all I would need for the day.  Now I have eat smaller meals every five hours it seems.  I’ve also developed a bad craving for sugary food.  This may make my weight loss tougher but then I have always been a naturally very large person.  I was one of these heavy kids in high school and college who had a lot of muscle in addition to being a little fat, so I looked a lot better than my measurements would have indicated.  I have had female friends for years tell me I was handsome despite how big I am.  I never put much stock in it until I hit my thirties because, really, how many teenagers and twenty somethings are satisfied with their looks even on a good day?  I guess my sugar cravings have replaced my cravings for caffeine.  I have drank maybe three cups of coffee in the last week.  I used to drink that many before noon most days.  I don’t have problems with blood pressure or cholesterol, at least not enough to be on medications.  But maybe my decreased want of caffeine will lower my blood pressure and reduce my anxiety level.

It has been an eye opening first week of a medication change.  I normally don’t experience this many changes this soon when switching medications.  But I hope the positive changes keep coming and the negative ones can be compensated for.

Changing Medications

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Saw my psych doctor a few days ago.  We agreed that a change in medications is in order.  Neither one of us think the meds I was on for the last two years are as effective as they once were.  He had me do a DNA cheek swab to be tested to see what medications would be effective given my DNA. The results will be in probably by the time I see him again in two weeks.  The tests may not be perfect but they should give us a better idea of what will and won’t work.  But these tests weren’t even around when I was diagnosed fifteen years ago.  For most of my illness we were merely throwing darts in the dark hoping to hit on something that would work.  We were just guessing, especially in the first year. For now I am starting the process of switching back to one of my previous medications.  I was on that med for several years but wanted to switch because it was known to promote weight gain.  But it sure was effective.  It’s too bad I let the side effects sabotage my previous attempts at weight loss.  Looking back, I think I used the side effect as an excuse not to be serious about my health.

In spite my recent mental health problems I managed to lose over twelve pounds in the first month of tracking my eating and exercising.  I’m seeing now that keeping track of what I eat is the difference between losing weight and gaining weight.  I was simply unaware of how much I really ate when I wasn’t tracking.  I am one of these people who would sometime eat just out of boredom.  But that has changed.  For my diet I cook almost all of my meals and I severely limit carbs.  I don’t even keep bread in the apartment anymore, haven’t for almost six months.  The weight loss has been the bright spot of this last month.  And I haven’t been crazy about my exercising.  I usually just walk twenty minutes a day probably five or six days a week.  I intend to keep this up even while changing medications.

Stability With Schizophrenia and Updates

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It’s been awhile since I posted.  Some updates and randomness are in order.  With spring being in full effect now, I’ve been outdoors and exercising every day.  We have a park that has some hiking trails that I’ve been doing for close to an hour a day about three to four days per week for the last few weeks.  Still get a little muscle soreness from this but I’m doing far better than where I was one year ago.

The mental health is even more stable at least 95 percent of the time.  I still have my occasional flare ups, especially under stress.  Fortunately I’ve gotten to where I either isolate to avoid physical contact with people or I’ll call a friend or family member and just talk my way back down.  Some of these conversations are scary even for me.  I know it’s even more so for those talking me back to sense, especially when I get personal about my rants.  I just hope friends and family don’t take anything personal because I am not vindictive or combative by nature.

I also got a different car.  A family friend was looking to sell a ten year sedan with only 34,000 miles.  So we, my family and I, took it.  My previous car was starting to have issues.  But it was over fifteen years old.  Many people don’t have houses that old.  With my newer car I’ve been getting out a little more.  I rarely travel outside my hometown during the winter months.

I’m going to be a groomsman in a college friend’s wedding this July.  They are both high school teachers in South Dakota.  It’s an outdoor wedding in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Beautiful country, especially in the summer.  If you haven’t been there, I recommend it.  I had to get measured for a suit.  I was measured a few years ago for when I was a pallbearer at my grandmother’s funeral, but since I lost weight I was due for a remeasure.  I get to spend three days in the Black Hills, always one of my favorite vacation spots.

Overall, things have been going well.  Been exercising almost everyday.  The weather is excellent.  The mental illness problems are at a minimum.  My new car is serving me well.  My old friend from college is getting married and I get to see it up close.  I’m getting out more.  No more spending entire days indoors because of winter weather.  I have been silent on this blog for a few weeks.  Not because things have gone bad, it’s because things have been going well.  Sometimes no news is good news.